Key to the Kingdom is a lightweight fantasy RPG game produced by Waddington’s from 1990 onwards, available in several markets including the UK and America, where it was released by Golden Games.
In Europe the cover art was toned down from the “Scary” UK box by replacing the Demon King with the Wizard of Plenty, who in my opinion, looks more sinister, and very beardy. Very, very beardy. As with most game box art, America received less than satisfying versions.
The game was originally designed by a fine gent by the name of Paul Bennett, himself being inspired by the game “Dungeons & Dragons”, or should I say uninspired by it. Upon his purchase of D&D, inside the large, bold box Paul was disappointed to find not much more than an instruction book shoved in the corner. With a slight taste of disdain in his mouth, he decided to make a fantasy D&D style game that would be fun & looked as amazing inside the box as it did on the outside.
Paul created some prototype boards, which as you can see, haven’t changed a great deal in the transition to manufactured product. Waddington’s quickly snapped up the idea and Key to the Kingdom became a production line reality.
In terms of ease of play, if you put D&D here, and Hero Quest here, Key to the Kingdom would be about here.
There was even a follow-up, aptly named “Key to the Kingdom 2”, but Waddington’s were committed with other games, so sadly it remained at the prototype stage.
Inside the Box
Inside the box you get a handful of “Adventurers” in varying total coverage colours, but still looking awesome to my mind’s child like eye. You get a 2 piece jigsaw which soon assembles into the main board. You get a die, various cards, with epic, fantasy names such as “The Crown of Glory”, “The Ring of Power” and the… “Chalice”… err, ok. There are also some envelopes, where foes dwell such as the unbeatable Voodoo Spectre or the Cantankerous Gnome… right. You even get a couple of whirlpools, which are listed as included accessories on the game box!
The premise of the game is fairly simple, and very luck based. This isn’t a game for the serious fantasy gamer, but then it was never meant to be.
Plonk your chappy on the starting point, chuck the 8 sided die (YES EIGHT!) and move your character the given amount of spaces. BUT, WAIT… the first roll is actually assigned to the Demon King. He must be placed on the corresponding number on the board. Then you may take your real roll. If you ever bump into this sinister character then you go straight to the dungeon, and then bad, bad things happen.
The goal is to get around the board, maybe jump through the whirlpools if you fancy it and visit the various attractions on your way. After visiting each attraction, you get to pick a monster card and fight the monster revealed. Your inventory cards can help here, as certain creatures have weaknesses, but if you’ve lost them, then you may have to take your chances with a roll of the die. If you win, you get to snatch the treasure inside, if you even want it. You need to collect one piece of treasure and the KEY TO THE KINGDOM. Once you’ve done this you can haul ass and get the hell outta there, being careful that an opponent doesn’t land on your square and steal one of your treasures! (this is an aspect that Paul himself would even change with hindsight, instead his offered solution is a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to win the item – which seems a very amicable way of conducting things).
There are also various hazards to overcome on your way around, including the possibility to try your hand at bridge building or threatening a cyclops with an axe & fire.. As if his mono-vision didn’t create a combat advantage for you already… you cruel bastard.
I always remember the whirlpools as the stand out features. If you jump in one, then everyone else on the board has a few rolls to get there as well (water related pun intended), otherwise, you flip the board regardless, and figures go flying (Once you’ve recovered them from your brew, they can re-join you on the new side of the board).
Although Key to the Kingdom is a fairly straightforward game of die rolling and fluke, I still find the images and the general fantasy setting as exciting and imagination provoking as I ever did, and as a family introduction to the realm of fantasy games, it will always take some beating in my book.
Watch the Video
See my full retrospective inspection here…
A Kick-starter campaign tried to the bring the game to mobile platforms a couple of years ago, but sadly, it failed.